COME HOME TO THE PNM
By SEAN DOUGLAS Monday, October 29 2012
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VICTORY: Executive members of the People's National Movement are in happy spirits following the close of the polls at the party's Annual Convention an...
A STATESMANLIKE Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley urged supporters to “come home to the PNM” as he addressed thousands of happy party members in a packed Grand Stand at Queen’s Park Savannah, yesterday, at the PNM 44th Annual Convention.
“The PNM cup runneth over. The People’s National Movement is alive and well. The spirit of the PNM is moving through all the land,” he said. “Come the year 2015, or before, it is your dazzling and shining light that will lead the People’s National Movement back into governance.”
Saying the ruling People’s Partnership (PP) refused to accept that TT was in crisis, Rowley said the PNM must now put the nation back on track. “It cannot be business as usual — not in the PNM, not in the Government, not in the country,” said Rowley.
“Take a sincere, honest objective look at ourselves. Prepare yourselves to take back the country from those who cannot manage.”
This cannot be done simply by having a burning desire, he said, but by having an end in sight. All citizens must choose between the forces of progress (PNM) and the forces of regression (PP) . “The way forward will be hard and demanding,” he said. However he said the PNM “troops” are rallying in Tobago where he expects them to win the upcoming Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, against the PP’s “proxy party,” the TOP.
Rowley not only rallied the troops to the party, but also to himself, in a makeover of mannerisms that had one guest say, “Today, I’m seeing a new Rowley”.
Clad in red tie, white shirt and black suit, matching the national colours draped onstage, Rowley ditched his rebel image to instead assert himself at the PNM political centre-stage.
As in a pre-convention radio advert the past week when he mouthed PNM founder Dr Eric Williams’ speech about the PNM being “a rally for all”, Rowley yesterday again linked himself to Williams whom he lengthily quoted and whose picture sat next to his own on the cover of the glossy convention programme.
Rowley toned down his usual verbal fire and brimstone. Also adding to his statesmanlike image was a touch of US presidential style razzmatazz.
Before coming onstage, a video was shown of him earlier primming himself at home in front of a mirror, with his adjustment of cuff-links drawing several “oo’s” and “ahh’s” from females in the audience. The convention also saw a video of his friends such as Anglican Bishop Calvin Bess and his wife, attorney- at-law, Sharon Rowley, singing his praises.
Again, like a TT “Obama” or a “Romney”, he came onstage at the convention arm in arm with Mrs Rowley, who then accepted roses from two small children, before lovingly leaving her husband onstage to give his speech.
After the speech, he surely struck a sympathetic chord with supporters when reappointing his current four deputy political leaders — Orville London, Rohan Sinanan, Joan Yuille-Williams and Marlene Mc Donald, he promised the quartet nothing but “work, work, work”.
He also told ordinary members that they must take personal responsibility for their success, children, family life, income and health.
He recalled that while Dr Willians had urged some State help for the urban poor, thrift and hard work are also required.
Rowley also spelt out the actions of a future PNM government, focussing on reviving the energy sector and curbing the Public Debt. He vowed to set up a Parliamentary Energy Committee to oversee TT’s energy policy.
The committee would oversee and develop longer term strategies so as to let TT’s energy policy transcend party politics.
He said TT must “move downstream” — or create new products from — the existing petrochemicals industries of ammonia, urea and methanol.
He urged a merger of Petrotrin and the National Gas Company like Brazil energy firm, Petrobras. Rowley said TT would seek joint ventures with private energy firms in new domains outside of TT, such as South America and Africa.
Rowley lamented that TT’s petrochemical industries and steel sector have suffered from gas supply shortages, causing decline, even as these commodities now fetch better market prices.
He also warned, “We may well be witnessing the start of investors fleeing or reducing their investments in Trinidad and Tobago.” He said the PP Government is incompetent in the energy sector.
On the economy, he vowed to separate out the “heritage” component from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund, so as to benefit our grandchildren and not to use it for today’s exigencies. Rowley was concerned for TT’s medium-term revenues.
“We therefore must not put ourselves in a position of higher debt levels which are ultimately unsustainable. The way things are going, the PNM might well find dangerously high levels of debt when we come to office in 2015 or sooner. We have to prepare ourselves for this scenario,” he said.
“We will also tackle frontally the Transfers and Subsidies budget by ensuring that monies spent under this head are targeted and achieve their purpose, and when the objective has been achieved, the subsidies must be reduced.”
Rowley accused the Government of hiding a few hundred million dollars in the recent National Budget under the head of the Ministry of National Security, to pay towards compensation in the UK-based arbitration hearings over the cancelled contract to buy three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) from a UK-firm, BAE Systems. He alleged that a recent Cabinet meeting ended in disarray over the OPVs.